Buttery, salty popcorn is not a healthy snack – it’s loaded with fats, sodium and unnecessary calories. That doesn’t mean all popcorn is bad – it can be a fast and nutritious snack. So before you start family movie night, learn how to make healthy popcorn at home:
- Pop the kernels yourself. Place about ¼ cup of plain popcorn kernels in a brown paper bag, roll the top closed and microwave the popcorn as you would commercial popcorn. Cook for about three minutes (or until popping slows down). If you want to make healthful popcorn on a regular basis, though, get an air popper. They pop the kernels more evenly and the popcorn often has a better flavor. Plus, there’s less risk of burning the popcorn in an air popper. Avoid microwave popcorn packets – there are still health concerns about added chemicals.
- Select your own seasoning. While you shouldn’t add salt or fats to your popcorn, you don’t have to eat it plain. Flavor your popcorn with healthful seasonings, such as garlic, cinnamon, hot paprika, curry powder, red pepper flakes or other spices. Use water instead of butter to help your toppings stick to the popcorn. Use a fine mist sprayer and spritz your popcorn lightly as you sprinkle on your healthy toppings.
- Stay with a serving size. While air-popped popcorn without salt or oil is low in calories and fat, you still need to limit your serving size. One 3-cup serving of air-popped popcorn has 93 calories, 1 gram of fat and 2 milligrams of sodium. By comparison, 3 cups of commercial microwave popcorn with oil has 192 calories, 14 grams of fat and 348 milligrams of sodium. If you add just 1/4 teaspoon of salt to your air-popped popcorn, its sodium content will skyrocket to 581 milligrams.
Did you know? An average bucket of movie theater popcorn with butter contains approximately 1,640 calories and 126 grams of fat!